Interviews with Chinese Women Writers, 2019

Most readers nowadays, asked to name a contemporary Chinese writer, could manage at least one. But the odds are that it will be a man. In these interviews, we explore how Chinese women authors from mainland China see themselves and their status.

In recent decades in mainland China, there have been vast improvements in standards of living and personal freedoms (to choose one's higher education and career, and to travel, for instance) and a small number of women writers have flourished. For instance, the current head of the China Writers Association, Tie Ning, is a woman. However, women writers still appear to lag far behind their male counterparts in other respects. Only nine of forty-three winners of the Mao Dun Literary Prize were women between 1982 and 2015; as were only twenty-seven of 228 Lu Xun Prize awards (various categories) between 1995 and 2017. And far fewer women are translated into English: of 117 novels translated from Chinese between 2012 and 2018, only thirty-five were by women. Our aim in translating and publishing these interviews is to bring the opinions of Chinese women writers on this topic, in all their variety and complexity, to English-language readers.

Notes: With the exception of Wang Bang, all writers answered in Chinese. The initials of the translator can be found at the end of each interview. Some writers chose to remain anonymous. We have published the response of another writer, Tang Fei, separately. It can be read in Words Without Borders.

Nicky Harman and Natascha Bruce

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From author to catchphrase and back again: Lu Xun's Weeds

By Dylan Levi King, October 19, '20

In China in Ten Words, Yu Hua describes stubbing his toe on stacks of Lu Xun books gathering dust in the office of a provincial cultural center and saying to himself, "'That guy's days are over, thank goodness!'" (this is from the translation by Allan H. Barr).

As Yu Hua puts it, Lu Xun went "from being an author to being a catchphrase and then back again." Lu Xun’s legacy was flattened in the long half-century after his death. When state control over literature loosened on both sides of the Straits in the ‘80s, attempts were made to reinflate the flattened Lu Xun, but perhaps the damage was already done.

What changed Yu Hua’s mind was picking up the collected short fiction after a director pitched him on writing a script based on some of Lu Xun’s stories.

It made me think back to those books of his under the table in the cultural center, and it seemed to me now that they had been trying to tell me something. When they tripped me up as I went in and out of my office, they were actually dropping a hint, quietly but insistently signaling the presence of a powerful voice within the dusty tomes.

I always found the veneration of Lu Xun understandable, and I appreciate his contributions to contemporary Chinese literature, but I found it hard to see much vital and pressing in his work. Matt Turner’s translation of Lu Xun’s Weeds was a minor revelation last year.

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Interviews with Chinese Women Writers

By Nicky Harman, October 13, '20

Most readers nowadays, asked to name a contemporary Chinese writer, could manage at least one. But the odds are that it will be a man. In these interviews, we explore how Chinese women authors from mainland China see themselves and their status.

In recent decades in mainland China, there have been vast improvements in standards of living and personal freedoms (to choose one's higher education and career, and to travel, for instance) and a small number of women writers have flourished. For instance, the current head of the China Writers Association, Tie Ning, is a woman. However, women writers still appear to lag far behind their male counterparts in other respects. Only nine of forty-three winners of the Mao Dun Literary Prize were women between 1982 and 2015; as were only twenty-seven of 228 Lu Xun Prize awards (various categories) between 1995 and 2017. And far fewer women are translated into English: of 117 novels translated from Chinese between 2012 and 2018, only thirty-five were by women. Our aim in translating and publishing these interviews is to bring the opinions of Chinese women writers on this topic, in all their variety and complexity, to English-language readers.

Notes: With the exception of Wang Bang, all writers answered in Chinese. The initials of the translator can be found at the end of each interview. Some writers chose to remain anonymous. We have published the response of another writer, Tang Fei, separately. It can be read in Words Without Borders.

Nicky Harman and Natascha Bruce

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Diaspora lit: A review of K-Ming Chang's 'Bestiary'

By Bruce Humes, October 1, '20

At the same time that it lays bare the ground that shaped this particular family, “Bestiary” also paints a portrait of Taiwanese identity, poking at the various histories and horrors that built the island and its citizens. A place where “Ma doesn’t measure her life in years but in languages: Tayal and Yilan Creole in the indigo fields where she was born … Japanese during the war, Mandarin in the Nationalist-eaten city. Each language worn outside her body, clasped around her throat like a collar.” From pirates to soldiers and those who came before, the men who claimed Taiwan and the women who sustained it, the country’s evolution is as much a part of the book’s collection of beasts as is the tiger spirit.

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Xi’an Sep 20 Live Events: Aku Wuwu, Xi Chuan & Jia Pingwa

By Bruce Humes, September 17, '20

To celebrate its opening in Xi’an, Fangsuo Xi’an Creative Union (西安方所创联中心) will host a month or so of cultural forums/salons during mid-September to mid-October.

Poets Aku Wuwu (阿库乌雾) and Xichuan (西川) will appear together Sunday Sep 19 at 15:00-15:30, and Aku Wuwu will recite his long poem 《火颂》in the Yi language. Renowned Shaanxi novelist Jia Pingwa (贾平凹) is scheduled for some time during 16:00-18:00, if I interpret the poster correctly . . .

Venue: 西安市 莲湖区 星火路 22 老城根 G-Park 商业街区 1-F 68 商铺

For more on all the events during Sep-Oct info in Chinese visit here.

If that link downloads too slowly, you can try this one, but both are slow due to heavy load of graphics.

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A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation (1919–2019) English Publication and Reception

By Helen Wang, September 14, '20

A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation (1919–2019) English Publication and Reception
by Leah Gerber and Qi Lintao, published by Routledge, Sept 2020. ISBN 9780367321291

"Contributors from all around the world approach this theme from various angles, providing an overview of translation phenomena at key historical moments, identifying the trends of translation and publication, uncovering the translation history of important works, elucidating the relationship between translators and other agents, articulating the interaction between texts and readers and disclosing the nature of literary migration from Chinese into English."

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Let Paper Republic be safe, let Read Paper Republic be safe, let Sunday Sentence #1 be safe, let Sunday Sentence #2 be safe, let Sunday Sentence #3 be safe...

By Dylan Levi King, August 2, '20

The biggest story in Chinese literature this week is a book called Peace Mantra (or Peace Sutra, Classic of Peace—however you want to translate Ping’an Jing 平安经), written by He Dian 贺电, an officer with the Public Security Bureau in Jilin.

The South China Morning Post's Liu Zhen describes Peace Mantra like this: “The 336 pages of the book are covered only with variations of the sentence: ‘Let … be safe.’”

Let the train stations of China be safe

Let Beijing Station be safe, let Xi'an Station be safe, let Zhengzhou East Station be safe, let Shanghai Hongqiao Station be safe, let Hangzhou East Station be safe, let Guangzhou South Station be safe, let Nanjing South Station be safe, let Chengdu East Station be safe, let Beijing South Station be safe, let Tianjin West Station be safe, let Wuhan Station be safe, let West Kowloon Station be safe, let Hsinchu Station be safe.

An introduction explains: “The world needs peace. The nation needs stability. All industries require safety. The people yearn for tranquility.”

When news of the book and He Dian’s extensive promotion spread to social media, it was mocked and condemned. State media joined in with editorials.

It seems clear that there was some funny business. The book was priced at 299 RMB ($42 USD), which doesn’t sound that bad, but puts it at a price point about six or seven times what most books sell for. There were symposiums held to discuss it, and there were public readings.

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Contemporary Fiction from China: Must it Be Penned in Mandarin?

By Bruce Humes, August 1, '20

A few years back I posted a piece entitled A Resounding “Yes” to Mother-tongue Literature — but for Whom and about What?

(Caption: Tempête rouge --- an example of a novel translated direct from the Tibetan)

In this context, “mother-tongue” referred to indigenous languages other than Mandarin. This topic may be of interest to Paper Republicans who perceive “Chinese literature” as encompassing writing in Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongolian, as well as oral literature (口述文学) for peoples who do not have a script widely used in the PRC, such as the Evenki, Zhuang and many others.

In my essay, I posed this question: Who is going to write in their native language — or read what is written for that matter — if they cannot receive a decent education in it?

For full text --- including update on China's "bilingual" education policy in Inner Mongolia, Tibetan regions and Xinjiang -- visit here.

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一周一句 Sunday Sentence #8

By Jack Hargreaves, July 19, '20

For the final week of Sunday Sentence round one, we have the opening sentence of the as-yet untranslated 《六人晚餐》 (Dinner for Six) by Lu Min 鲁敏 (2012). Thanks to Emily Jones for the suggestion!
Please input your translation in the comments box at the bottom of the page.

The sentence to translate is:
所有的一切,不如就从厂区的空气说起。这空气,是酿造情感起源的酵母,也是腌制往事的色素与防腐剂。

Remember, you can post your translation anytime between now and next Sunday, so you have plenty of time to ponder and refine it.

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A Paper Republic shoutout from Nick Stember in the British Journal of China Studies

By Dylan Levi King, July 13, '20

"Sinophiles between Flatland, Fetish, and Feuilleton":

Despite (or because of) the increasingly fraught relationship between the Chinese- and English-speaking parts of the world, to my eyes anglophone Chinese studies today finds itself blessed with a wealth of voices, both within academia and without. Projects like the ever-excellent Chinese Storytellers newsletter, for example, highlight the all too often overlooked contributions of Chinese and Chinese American journalists to the political and social discourse; Reading the China Dream fills out the picture with an angle on the intellectuals; Neil Clarke and his merry band of pranksters over at Clarkesworld continue to bring much needed attention to Chinese science fiction (in addition to that of other languages); or Paper Republic (as of last year, a registered charity in the UK!) and the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, which do the same for Chinese language fiction more broadly.

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Tao Yueqing was too busy at his day job to notice his translation of an American classic had been published

By Dylan Levi King, July 12, '20

A short time ago, the Paper 澎湃 ran an interview with Tao Yueqing 陶跃庆 about his work on On the Road, in which he explains what it teaches us about America, the afterlives of the book, and how gave up on translation for a day job. (《在路上》译者陶跃庆凯鲁亚克及其燃烧的时代.)

I’ll admit, I am jealous sometimes of our Chinese comrades. I understand it’s not glamorous work (it’s my job!), but a book like On the Road is not waiting out there for me—a book the publisher has to hustle to get it into a second, third, fourth printing, a book appearing in the rucksacks of disaffected urbanites for the next two decades, a book that I will be interviewed about thirty years later...

Tao Yueqing had no idea that he had just helped launch an American classic in Chinese translation. He took his half of the manuscript fee and went on with the rest of his life.

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